TORONTO, Canada – The impact of COVID-19 on global tourism, the uncertainty it faces with regards to international travel, global COVID-19 vaccination and now, the La Soufriere volcano eruption, all contribute to accelerated decision making to Caribbean Tourism, given the underpinning for productivity, economic growth, development and prosperity, entrenched in policy formulation in the region.
Chairman of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), Barry Collymore, as reported by NOW Grenada, believes that COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for tourism in Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean.
“The key to capitalising on that opportunity is citizens becoming vaccinated and reaching herd immunity in the quickest possible time. Said Collymore. “We have a solution – vaccine is the solution,” he explained. “We now have a tremendous opportunity in that every single tourism destination has been impacted and what that has done is that it has levelled the playing field. Whereas, before you had many countries that were far ahead of Grenada, far ahead of the Caribbean, we now have the opportunity to bounce back and command more,” Collymore said Wednesday, April 7, 2021. “We have the opportunity to reopen. We have the opportunity to capture more of that British share; we have the opportunity to capture more of the US market share.”
Much to the uneasiness of many, the government of Grenada has announced that all frontline workers at hotels and quarantine facilities will have to be mandatorily vaccinated.
Alongside the emerging world, mass vaccination is a challenge the region will have to encounter in the new normal for travel, work and returning to the norms of family life.
“We have an opportunity to command more of the global tourism market share and the reason why we have that opportunity is because we have done so well in the management or relatively well in the management of COVID-19,” he observed. “We have the opportunity to have a real good summer. We have the opportunity to have a really early winter season, starting as early as November. November could be a very special month for us. We are at a point now, where the decision we make over the next 6 to 8 weeks will determine whether or not our hotels open and other businesses,” he said.
Discussing the future of Caribbean tourism, Barbados minister of tourism and international transport, senator Lisa Cummins, disclosed that in recent discussions with her regional counterparts discussed issues such as inter-regional travel, domestic tourism and the upcoming hurricane season.
Minister Cummins stated: “There are a number of carriers that have emerged in the last year or so, and coming up this week, we actually have a planned meeting with all of the regional carriers for the purpose of looking at inter-regional travel. That obviously is significantly impacted as a result of these airspace closures, and what that means as a result for all of the travel within the region.
“One of the other things that we are also going to be doing during the course of this week is meeting on cruise and how we can as regional economies coordinate on the itineraries that are on the cruise lines, so that we have identical protocols, or at least uniformity in the protocols and that there is a gold standard.
“We’ve started conversations, many of us already, about raising awareness about tourism-dependent economies and the impacts of COVID-19. We were preparing for a discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism-dependent economies and what that means as we head into the hurricane season.
“Minister Cummins stressed that the uncertainty about the tourism industry is not “a uniquely Barbadian phenomenon”, adding, “it is very much one of those moments where it’s global, and it’s been globalised by COVID-19. […] We just have to make sure that we continue doing the best that we can, to be the best that we can be, circumstances notwithstanding”.
Prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, last Wednesday said that if the prevailing economic situation continues, the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines may be unable to pay salaries and benefit.
While the government has held things together “through all kinds of difficulties”, there is now “a real pressure on”, he continued. “I say this with all honesty, the way things are going … in one or two -months … the government may not have the $30 million every month to pay civil servants and to pay the NIS contributions to civil servants, those who are pensionable to pay the NIS contributions for current, and to pay salaries and wages,” Gonsalves said on NBC Radio.
On April 9, 2021, an explosive eruption began at the La Soufrière volcano. This has further contributed to a substantial scale back in socio-economic development of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the context of regional integration and development, discussions will require regional cooperation and knowledge sharing on a wider range of issues, than the resumption of a traditional tourism sector.
Regional cooperation may very well induce uncomfortable regional policy, inclusive of migration, major security challenges, regional COVID-19 vaccination (COVID passport), international trade and investment, debt forgiveness and formulating norms in a region beleaguered by natural disasters.